If you speak to any audience with respect, humility and empathy, it's hard not to get a good outcome. The audience will see you, the messenger in a good light. Many people, especially nervous and novice speakers, think that public speaking is about the speaker. This is incorrect. Public speaking is about delivering value to the audience. There are some wonderful derivative benefits of speaking well, like being invited to get involved in bigger and perhaps more important or lucrative projects. It could possibly attract promotions or pay rises, bonuses and holidays. However, if you're chasing the derivative benefits and you don't deliver value, you'll be wasting your time and that of the audience.

People's time is their most valuable asset. If you waste people's time they can become hostile in subtle ways. If you're trying to deliver value and they perceive your efforts positively, they will be on your side and you'll strike a great rapport with them. When you're on the same wave-length as your audience, it's a lot easier to influence them in a positive and ethical manner. Speaking is a leadership role and we can change people's lives with our words. As you deliver more value, the nervous and novice speaker experiences a shift in the focus of the spotlight from themselves to the audience. As positive experiences go, it's one of the best.

Major consideration - what is the purpose of your speech?  Is it to inform, educate, persuade, motivate, inspire or entertain? 

There are 3 key messages from the workshop.

a) It's not what you say - it's the way that you say it.

b) Know your audience and their expectations.

c) Preparation, preparation, preparation.

Plan, Prepare, Practice, Educate, Entertain, Explain

Aristotle's Rhetoric (Persuasion)


Phronesis - the character of the speaker. Is the speaker trustworthy?

Arete - speaking fluency, rhythm and overall excellence.

Eunoia - the speaker's goodwill towards the audience and their interests.

Logos - logic - structure/coherence - does the speech flow and does it stack up?

Is the material supported by concrete examples - stories, anecdotes, case studies, research data, metaphors, quotations, rhetorical devices and credible statistics?

Pathos - emotion - did the speaker appeal to the audience's emotions using the pros and cons of the material? Were they enthusiastic? Did they show sincerity, belief, conviction and passion?

Speech openings and speech endings are critical. Getting off to a good start will give you confidence throughout the speech. Work on practicing a fluent start. Rehearse the opening well. Speech endings similarly should end tightly and conclusively. Signal the ending with a change of pitch, pace or volume. The terms, 'and finally' or 'in conclusion' are usually enough to signal the ending.

Albert Mehrabian's work has been interpreted and misinterpreted over the last 50 years. What is recognised is that when the words (the message), the voice tone and the body language are all sending a congruent message, you're much more likely to get the outcome you're looking for. A solid understanding of these three parts of the communication equation is all important.

The key messages from these statistics discussed are:

It's not what you say - it's the way that you say it. Your words, vocal variety and body language must all be transmitting the same message if you want maximum impact.

Speech Considerations:

Here are some things to consider when preparing a speech:

What is a speech? It's a planned conversation.

Who are the audience? This is a major consideration. Without an audience, we don't need speakers. Ask the question - what's in it for them? Keep your material relevant to them.

Do not leave your personality at the door. Make sure that your speech not only conveys a solid message, but that it says a lot about you too; your personality, your character, your personal values and what you stand for. 

When you speak, you must demonstrate and deliver some of the following personal attributes:  enthusiasm, belief, sincerity, conviction, passion. If you do not, you cannot expect anybody to listen. 

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Otherwise, it's an empty experience for you and the audience.


Introduction - tell them what you're going to tell them.  3 themes are good.  Remember the structure of a newscast. When preparing your speech, if you can work out the conclusion first, then your introduction and main body of content must logically flow towards that conclusion.

Theme 1 - expand on it with stories, anecdotes, case studies, research data…

Theme 2 - expand on it  “                                 “                                      â€œ

Theme 3 - expand on it  “                                 “                                      “

Try and link the three themes with seamless transitions. When they are strongly focused or tied together, it comes across in a professional way.

Conclusion - pull it all together and make people 100% certain of your overall message. The voice is such an expressive tool - you want people to know exactly where you stand on the crucial issues.

Speech openings 

The opening of a speech must have impact to create interest and maintain audience engagement.

There many methods of successfully opening a speech. Here are a selection of six potential opening styles to choose from:

a) A rhetorical question - did you know that three teenage children die on the roads of London every week?

b) A piece of action  - Nervous - pale - expectant - pushed from the plane, tumbling tumbling through white cloud, hurtling towards the earth at 120 miles an hour...Ahhhhhhh!

c) A startling statistic - 98% of all speeches start with a weak beginning.

d) A bold statement — By 2030 Scotland will be a European economic powerhouse. Be prepared to provide lots of supporting evidence.

e) An apposite quotation - 'The definition of an expert is somebody who has failed at everything in a narrow field.' Niels Bohr

f) You could use a striking image that helps to convey your message. Put the image on screen and let them observe it for 10 seconds. Ask them what it means to them.

A speech with a strong conclusion will also make it more memorable. Statistics show that speech openings and conclusions are what most people will remember most from your speech.

Gestures - our gestures and facial expressions account for a large percentage of impact of our speech. Having a solid stance helps overcome a number of body language problems. Get your feet firmly planted shoulder width apart. Avoid repetitive and meaningless hand gestures. Do not rehearse gestures as it looks contrived and therefore insincere.

Voice - be prepared to use the 4ps: pace, pitch, pause and projection. Vary the pace and pitch.  If you constantly utilise the same speech pattern, it will appear flat. If you speak too quickly you diminish opportunities for the highs and lows of tonal variety.  Be prepared to pause for two or three seconds after making a point. That time may seem like forever to you, but for the audience it just gives them a moment to absorb what you've just said. With a big audience, be prepared to increase your volume.  However, be aware that talking at full blast is pretty tiring and if you're not used to doing it often, there is a tendency for your voice to tail off towards the end of sentences.

Vocabulary and word pictures - use strong appropriate language for your subject.  However, try not to sound that you have swallowed a dictionary and never use words that you do not understand. Use word pictures to help paint pictures in the minds of your audience. 'The old painted bus growled up the hill, belching black smoke into the pristine air of another Cuzco dawn.' Literary techniques and speaking fit well together, but do not over do it, as you do not want your speech to sound like a reading.

Always know who you're talking to and ask the question - what's in it for them? The army have a saying that - time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted. Check out your audience and the venue in advance if possible.

What is the purpose of your speech?  Is it to inform, educate, persuade, motivate, inspire or entertain? A speech without a purpose is just noise…

Drive your points home or drive your audience home. Use metaphors, stories, anecdotes, case studies. Try to make your points as visual as possible, as it helps people to remember the message.

Managing nerves - turn apprehension into speaking courage. Use the adrenaline in a positive way. Know your subject - and speak to the audience as if they are your peers.

Eye contact - absolutely essential. Make sure that everybody feels that you're talking to them individually.  Breathe in deeply, hold your breath and then exhale slowly. The slow exhalation connects with your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).

Ask rhetorical questions to your audience.  Get them to passively engage.

Use positive eye contact, body language, smiles, proximity, humour and the warmth of your voice and message to create rapport with the audience.

Use humour if it's appropriate.  Don't tell jokes for the sake of it.  Never tell blue or off colour jokes.  If humour doesn't come naturally to you, then leave it out.

Here is a list of distractions that you should try to avoid in your speech:

Rocking and swaying - firmly plant your feet under your shoulders.  Get your upper body weight on top of the pelvis which has to support your upper body (including your respiratory system and vocal apparatus. Use movement where appropriate.  Do not prowl around the stage…

Verbal mannerisms:  So, ok, y'know, right, init, blindin', do you get it? Bla bla bla… etc. etc…  Avoid ums and ahhs. Replace them with natural pauses.

Gentlemen particularly, keep hands out of pockets, especially if there are coins or keys in there.  The jangling effect is incredibly distracting.  Ladies, don't play with your hair when speaking, it is unprofessional.  Tie or clip it back.

Glasses - either keep them on or take them off. 

Keep your hands away from the upper chest to the top of the head.  We call this the communication zone and it must be kept clear.  Some people are hard of hearing and use lip reading to assist understanding.  If your hands in any way obscure your mouth, you have just lost some of your audience.

Avoid clichés like the plague - I have been told a million times about using this one…

Avoid jargon and acronyms with lay audiences unless you tell them in advance by means of a glossary of terms. 

Don't read from notes - it kills the all important eye contact, spontaneity and rapport.

Guiding Quotations:

Failure isn't fatal, success isn't final. Winston Churchill

All experience is subjective. Gregory Bateson

95% of people live in the storm of their thoughts. Mark Twain

Fortune favours the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur

All that we are arises from our thoughts. The Buddha

Vocal apparatus

The four resonators are the nasal cavity, the mouth, the throat and the chest. If any of these are constricted in any way it can have a profound impact on the quality of the voice.  The enemy of good quality voice production is tension. Tension usually arises from poor posture or in more extreme cases the fear of speaking or performing in public. Light warm up exercises pay dividends. Swaying, stretching, humming and any variety of the vocal exercises we practiced are invaluable.

The diaphragm is a parachute shaped muscle at the lower end of the rib cage and forms the lower part of the lungs. Excellent voice quality is produced by solid breath control supported from the diaphragm. Think of the voice as a wave of sound. Voice quality is sustained by a constant and controlled source of breath emanating from the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing has two key benefits to the speaker. The first is that quality breath control produces a sustained and energised voice. Secondly, deeper breathing brings more oxygen into the blood supply and the brain, slowing things down and enabling you to make better decisions. Breathe in through the nose (activate your nitric oxide) and get the oxygen around your system. Hold your breath for a short while and then breathe out - exhale slowly and connect with the parasympathetic nervous system.

The lungs are the engine room of the voice as they are massive resonating chambers. We should aim to get more chest into the voice. It makes us sound more authoritative. The box of a guitar is fixed and therefore produces consistent tones. If you think of a violin, it has a narrow box and produces high pitched sounds. A double bass on the other hand produces low frequency waves of sound. The diaphragm is incredibly flexible in that it is dynamic and depending where it is on the breathing cycle it can produce a different quality and variety of notes. Nature has been kind to us that we produce such rich, resonant and pleasing sounds from the vocal apparatus. 

Correct speaking posture

Most importantly, the entire body must be relaxed if the speaker is to score a creditable performance.  Muscle tension is the enemy of the speaker. 

Correct speaking posture is easily achieved by positioning the soles of the feet directly under the shoulders. The knees should be relaxed and flexed.  The speaker's torso should be directly supported by the pelvis, i.e. no slouching. The speaker's torso directly supported by the pelvis means that the weight of the upper body is evenly distributed.  This will assist the support of the respiratory system and the speaking apparatus.

Effectively, your physiology is now working to your advantage and most importantly, your voice production will not be choked by poor posture.  For example, if you stand with our feet together, it produces tension in the back, the back of the legs, buttocks and abdomen. That negative energy is working against you. Some speeches are short and perhaps most people wouldn't notice. But if you were speaking for any length of time (as most professional speaker/trainers are), you would begin to feel uncomfortable sooner rather than later.

Vincent Stevenson
The Fear Doctor
College of Public Speaking


More Information

  • About us

    The College of Public Speaking uses a tried and tested methodology that has proven effective with millions of budding speakers worldwide.

  • Testimonials

    Some of the testimonials we have received from people who have attended our courses

  • Find our Venues

    Voluntary Action Islington, 200a Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, London, N1 9JP

  • Vince Stevenson (The Fear Doctor)

    Vince Stevenson (The Fear Doctor) is a well known speaker/trainer and has won a number of awards for leadership, education and development. Vince is a National speech finalist in recent years.

  • Michael Ronayne

    Michael Ronayne - National Speaking Champion - 4 times in 7 years

  • Simon Maier

    Simon Maier is a communications expert with a thirty year background in global corporate communications, event content design and direction, working with corporations around the world.

  • Banu Abdurahman

    Banu Abdurahman is a specialist trainer in Management and Communication.

  • The Fear Doctor Book

    Get a free chapter of Vince Stevenson's forthcoming book, The Fear Doctor.

  • Public Speaking App

    Public Speaking Pal is a new modular application for Public Speaking on iPhone/iPad and Android platforms.